I’m going to be honest because I don’t know of any other way to be. When I read the news last week that the Steelers have chosen to employ a variable pricing plan for the second consecutive year, I was taken aback. I didn’t even know the Steelers had adopted the tiered pricing structure in 2014, let alone that they were modifying it for the 2015 campaign.
This year’s version of the variable pricing structure will consist of three tiers – Black (San Francisco, Baltimore and Cleveland), Gold (Arizona, Cincinnati, Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver) and Preseason (Green Bay and Carolina). The new wrinkle for 2015 is the addition of the third tier for preseason games, which have long been considered nothing but an overpriced burden for season-ticket holders.
The new tiered pricing system – along with the addition of between 2,500 and 3,000 seats in the south end zone – are welcome changes to Heinz Field’s infrastructure and the overall fan experience. For the nearly 70,000 rabid fans that will soon be clamoring to shoehorn themselves into what has to be the largest collection of bright-yellow plastic seats this side of the Mississippi, increased opportunities to attend games and friendlier pricing options have to be a huge selling point.
For me, however, the changes don’t make one bit of difference. Let me preface the next part of this particular get-off-my-lawn rant by saying that I’ve been to many Steeler games in my lifetime – preseason, regular season, postseason – but I haven’t been to a game in easily a half-dozen years and have little interest in ever going back.
My passion for all things Steelers is unwavering, but I fail to see the allure of attending games in person anymore. You can keep the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the parking headaches, the herds of people swilling (and spilling) beer, the overpriced concession stand fare, the fisticuffs in the bleachers and the colorful, nonsensical profanity. No, seriously. Go ahead. It’s all yours.
I’ve been on the Steelers season-ticket waiting list for well over two decades now, and I received the mailer from the team earlier this year that would have allowed me to stake my claim as one of the proud owners of the new seats in the south end zone. Again being perfectly honest, even if I had a big ol’ pile of money buried in my back yard that would cover the cost of the tickets and the personal seat licenses, I would not pay for them.
Maybe it’s the cynicism that comes along from making my way on this planet for nearly 39 years. Maybe it’s my wife’s frugal nature rubbing off on me. Maybe it’s all the reasons I listed above and a few more that I haven’t even fully formed in my tired, sports-addled brain. But sitting at my dining room table over the winter and looking at that mailer from the Steelers – knowing that I wanted no part of those brand-new seats in my team’s home stadium – it made me sad.
Why I was sad eluded me at first, but now I believe it’s because that part of my life – the time where I thought having Steelers season tickets would be the coolest thing in the world – is long gone. I went to my share of games over the years, garnering tickets in a variety of ways. Family, friends and scalpers got me into many a game over the years.
My favorite means of getting tickets definitely was the old lottery system where the Steelers would randomly award single seats to members of the season-ticket waiting list. A card would come in the mail with all the home games listed on it. You’d rank the games in order of preference from one through eight, send the card back to the team with your payment and wait. You didn’t know which games you’d gotten until your tickets came in the mail weeks later. Putting numbers of any kind next to the preseason games was a rookie move. After sitting through a late-August snooze-fest against the Redskins at Three Rivers Stadium sometime in the late 1990s, I learned to pretend the preseason games didn’t even exist when filling out my card. That’s a mistake you only make once, my friends.
For now, the excitement of the coming season is beginning to build. Draft picks are signing their names to contracts and actually donning the black and gold on the practice field for the first time. And the new seats in the south end zone are being snapped up as fast as the Steelers ticket agents can enter the data into their computers.
Here’s hoping all of you who will be parking your butts in the new seats this fall are happy with the sights, sounds (and smells…oh the smells) of your new neighbors. And that you have your route to the nearest restroom mapped out and timed up so you don’t miss any of the game. And that you sell enough plasma during the week leading up to the game to be able to afford to park your car and get something to eat.
Whatever you do, don’t worry about me. I’ll be sprawled out on my couch watching the same game you are – in crisp, beautiful high definition with my appropriately priced snacks and empty restroom. Just the way I like it.
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